February 10, 2015

It's Winter, and I'm Content

Let me admit this at the outset:  I did not see snow until I was twenty years old.  In fact, on that first occasion, in December 1969, I drove 200 miles from Gainesville, Florida to Augusta, Georgia for the sole purpose of seeing genuine flakes of the stuff falling from the sky.

February 1960.  No snow.  That's me
standing in the center.
My Florida upbringing notwithstanding, I have seen a lot of snow since.  A little over two years after that first encounter, I was ensconced in what I genuinely believed was the Snow Capital of the World: Schenectady, New York.  There, it is said, the snow never melts.  Instead, by June, enough soot collects on the top of the snow to support grass and flowers for a few months.

I have been in one snow mecca or another ever since, including a total of 25 years in the Boston area.  In short, despite a late start, I believe I have paid my snow dues. 

This latest round of snow - Marcus -
brings the 30-day snow total to
more than 60 inches
My wife, Betty, on the other hand, is from the upstate New York snow belt.  She has childhood tales of reaching out her second floor window to make snowballs from the lake-effect-fueled drifts.  Her definition of a ‘white Christmas’ is that it must actually be snowing on the morning of December 25.  I bow to the truth that she was shoveling snow as a child while I refused to go in swimming because the ocean temperatures at Miami Beach had dipped to a nippy 75 degrees.

For nine months of the year, our disparate upbringings have no bearing on our life together.  But when the snow starts falling heavily, my wife reverts to the fervent belief that I came to New England on the back of a mango truck sometime in the last few months.  When it comes to snow removal at our home, she is the boss and I am there mostly for comic relief.

Betty is the master of the snow blower
There is one final element of this story that needs to be told:  for the past fifteen years we have lived in a home with a winding, 220-foor-long driveway.  At the top of that driveway is a three-car garage that – likely as an architectural version of a practical joke – faces the street rather than ‘loading’ from the side.  All snow needs to be pulled away from the garage; not pushed past it.  Add an area for backing in, and you are talking about a little over 3000 square feet of asphalt that must be cleared each and every snowfall. 

And, there is a ‘part two’ of that final element:  along the driveway and close to the house are glorious beds of plants and trees that should never have excessive snow piled on them.  Plus a sidewalk.  And some pathways that lead to things like our compost bin and side door into the garage. 

A truck wielding a snow plow is impractical (those front-facing garage doors leave no ‘terminus’ to push the stuff).  Thus, there are no easy solutions when you are serious about not damaging a garden.  This is ‘retail’ snow removal, not ‘wholesale’.

All of this is manageable if the snowfall amounts to a few inches.  Using a ‘pusher’, I move the snow beyond what we call the ‘no throw’ zone, and we then shovel or use a snow blower to throw the stuff onto the lawn or into the woods.  Piece of cake.

My job is to keep the edges crisp
and even
The relentless series of storms that have encompassed New England for the past month had dropped more than 70 inches of the white stuff on our town.  That volume of snow calls for extraordinary measures and Betty devises the battle plan because she is the one who designed these gardens.  And so she commands the Ariens snow blower with its 20-inch-high maw and wide augur.  My job… is to clean up the edges and do any heavy lifting required.

I will be the first to admit that she does an extraordinary job of it.  The remnants of storms Juno, Linus and, now, Marcus, have been dealt with not just efficiently, but with an eye to managing snow melt if and when things warm up.  I will also acknowledge that I could not have done nearly as well.

In the meantime, though, my work on the edges is crisp and even.  I do have my pride.

Snow removal is supposed to be ‘guy’ stuff.  Our next-door neighbor has a tractor-cum-snow blower that is the envy of every guy on the street.  He can clear his driveway (with its side-loading garage) in half an hour, then do wheelies out in the street. 

It takes us considerably longer but, tomorrow morning, our driveway will be down to black pavement while all of our neighbors drive on a thin coat of ice.  Moreover, our mailbox is readily accessible to our carrier despite being ground zero for an entire street’s worth of snow.

No, I didn’t just arrive here from the land of the tropics.  Sometimes, though, you have to acknowledge that someone else has a ‘better idea’ of how to do these things.  Is it a product of being snow-belt born and bred?  I don’t know. 

I just do what I’m told.  But, in the back of my mind, I known darn good and well that I can husk a coconut ten times as fast as Betty any day of the week.